I haven’t blogged much lately. Quite honestly, not much has caught my attention. Until now.
When the first news alert came across my phone, I screamed on the news set. “Brittney Griner is being released!” Not long after that, all the news outlets had it. President Biden even held a news conference.
While I never truly thought Brittney Griner would get out of Russia, I’m so happy that she did. The question has to be asked though, at what cost?
As I’m writing this, we are getting word that Brittney Griner has landed in San Antonio. She’s home.
The video of Griner passing the man for whom she was swapped was like something out of a Cold War spy novel. On that airport runway, Griner walks toward a plane as Viktor Bout walks away. John le Carre couldn’t have written it better.
(Note from the blogger. I was going to write, “The video of Griner passing the man she was swapped for…. I realized if I was going to use John le Carre’s name, I had to clean it up. Use some proper English.)
Again, I’m so happy she’s home. Reunited with her family. This has been a long, ugly journey.
What’s the cost though? Was it worth it? This prisoner swap puts back into circulation a very bad man. Viktor Bout has the nickname “merchant of death.”
According to the Washington Post, Viktor Bout was serving “a 25-year sentence after building a gun-smuggling empire that spanned the globe.” Like I said, a very bad man.
Eugene Robinson writes in The Washington Post that the Griner/Bout swap is a good thing. He argues that not doing it would have meant Griner would “suffer indefinitely in unspeakable conditions.” He also says it’s the duty of United States to bring its citizens home if they are held unjustly.
You can, I guess, make the argument that nine months in prison for cannabis-infused cartridges is unjustified.
The New York Times looks at it differently. In a news analysis, the paper says: “In Brittney Griner Deal, Putin Used Pain, a Familiar Lever.”
The Times goes on to say that by seizing the basketball star, Vladimir Putin made things so painful for the U.S. that it gave in and turned over a convicted arms dealer.
The article goes in to ask, can the same tactic work in Ukraine? Will Vladimir Putin inflict so much pain that they and Western governments will eventually make a deal?
Putin knows how to play a long game. He knows how to find weak spots. In Brittney Griner, he saw a vulnerable woman desperate to get home. He saw a country desperate to get her home.
In Ukraine, he’s playing a long game too. Maybe that wasn’t the original intent of this war, but that’s what it’s become. How long can Ukraine continue to hold on? How long can the West keep supplying that country?
I thought a lot about that other prisoner too, Paul Whelen and his family. He’s being held in Russia for years. There’s no indication of when he might be released.
The White House said this, “ Our choice was Britney or no one at all bringing home one American on no American at all.”
President Biden said this: “And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”
The good news here… Brittney Griner is home. A story to tell. I can’t wait to hear it. The bad news… at what cost was it to get her home.